Creative leaders in the software industry
How to bring together product and sales mindsets and understand the customers.
The B.A. Creative Industries Management educates managers in a range of different fields that involve creativity and ideas, such as architecture, film, music, publishing, design, and fashion, and the software industry.
Saleh Dbaliz landed a job in IT and during his final year of studies and he has researched what challenges “creative leaders” face in a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), when juggling their both sales and product management department.
The unique thing about the software industry is that it’s a collaboration of two different mindsets. It has a product team that consists of a manager, software engineers, graphic designers, and core developers; it’s an innovative team. The second team is the sales team which is business-oriented. In such a situation, managers have to be enormously creative as they have to manage two totally different mindsets. This topic is highly relevant, given the growth of the software and games industry as a part of the creative industries. This area has grown enormously in recent years; the global software industry is about to reach $5.2 trillion in revenues in 2020.
This shows the importance of “creative leaders”. A leader who is intelligent enough to understand two different mentalities can manage both of them adequately. It’s the responsibility of the leader to maintain a balance of duties between both the teams, avoid the clashes, and make the projects successful. A creative leader can do this effectively compared to a traditional management style, which often is not aligned with the amount of diversity we are living in. Particularly in software companies, creative leaders need to provide space for the individuals to explore creative solutions, adopt non-hierarchical and flexible communication, care about the opinions of others, allow share responsibilities and flexible working hours for work-life balance.
Now, if we break down the roles of sales and product management teams; it becomes evident that the sales team has to be creative, too, because it is the team that will research out into the market, advertise and sell the product. The SaaS (Software as Service) approach is about realizing that a company’s customers are constantly re-evaluating their product – weekly, monthly, or yearly. The product manager has to check and ensure if the company is solving the right problems to fulfil customer expectations. The product team is ought to look at a problem from all angles and find the right path. So, Saleh’s research has found that the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) needed to be counted according to the contribution of both, sales, and product teams. Another crucial element between these two teams is knowledge sharing and communication; the sales team directly takes the feedback about the products from customers and conveys it to the product team. Seamless communication between these two teams is needed, so that the product team can keep improving, serving the market in better ways. The sales team brings the ideas circulating among customers where the product team evaluates and validates those ideas. This is called Data-Driven Product Management in software companies.
To gain inside knowledge about this, Saleh conducted a range of semi-structured interviews in a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company with their both sales and product management department. That specific company creates cloud/online applications such as Google Docs which is online where Microsoft Word is an offline product, but both do the same task. The purpose of conducting these interviews was to understand their perspective about the relationship between these two departments, how it can be improved, and what are the best management techniques in the creative industries according to them.
If we look at Data-Driven Product Management in a SaaS company from a creative industries perspective, we realize that SaaS companies maintain product management with creative approaches. The ultimate reason for this is the continuous change in technology. Technologies change rapidly; once a technology is prevalent, it will soon become obsolete. So, the SaaS industry has to change with growing trends in technology which eventually makes it a highly innovative industry. Keeping this information in mind, we can clearly say that creative management, effective communication, and knowledge sharing is immensely needed in a SaaS/software company/industry.
Hence creative leaders are essential for the success of this type of industry. This is also what we can find when studying subjects like, for example, “Leadership and Organization” within the Creative Industries Management program, as it is addressing most of the mentioned issues above. The success of a SaaS company highly depends on evolving with the market trends, adopting new technologies, and keep analyzing the customers’ interests. Where all this requires an excellent knowledge sharing between the product and sales departments of the company, and all of this is possible only under a creative leader.
Text and visual imagery: Saleh Dbaliz